The Forbes Pigment Collection

ICA Subset of the Forbes Collection of Paint Samples

ICA is one of a select group of institutions housing a subset of historic pigment samples from the Edward Forbes’ collection at Harvard University. Richard Buck, the founding director of the ICA, had been a member of the Harvard Art Department, and was instrumental in acquiring the collection.


Richard Buck, Founding Director of the ICA

The samples range from minerals to plants to dried insects and are an important reference collection for conservators, scientists, technical art historians, and others. They also provide a fascinating insight into traditional painting materials, many of which are no longer produced or available.

Edward Waldo Forbes (1873-1969), an art historian and former director of the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, collected pigments and their source materials over a period of several decades.

The Forbes Pigment Collection, on display in the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies at Harvard University, contains over 3,000 samples (ICA has 500).

A new publication, An Atlas of Rare & Familiar Colour, features 200 of these historically important colorants and presents the history of the collection which continues to grow as new pigments are added.

The entire collection can also be consulted through an online database.

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